Saturday 1 December 2012

The beautiful Catlins

Best morning ever! There was a venison pie in the pie warmer! We hit the wharf, boarded the ferry and headed back towards the mainland. The sea was pretty flat, with a bit of wind, but not an awful lot of birds. But we did get a brief good look at a broad-billed prion zipping past, quite a good view of a Hutton’s shearwater, and a good number of common diving petrels and sooty shearwaters. A few white-capped albatross came past, and several Northern giant petrels, but nothing new as we pulled in to the Bluff wharf.

We packed the vehicle and headed off towards the Catlins Coast. Passing through some stunning scenery we grabbed some lunch and then headed to one of the coastal beaches where we had lunch in the sunshine and then wandered along the beach seeing a small NZ (Hooker’s) sea lion and then a much larger sub-adult male. We had really nice views of these animals which are slowly making a comeback along this part of the coast. There were also a few pairs of variable oystercatchers and lots of sooty shearwaters visible offshore.

We then carried on up the coast and then to a beach near Oamaru, our stop for the night. At the beach we wrapped up warm as there was a strong wind blowing, but as we walked along the track we could hear several yellow-eyed penguins calling in the bushes very close. We got to a point where we could see a good part of the beach and there was a penguin just coming ashore, so we set the scope up and had nice views of this coming in towards the bushes and presumably up to its mate who was probably waiting at the nest. We could see the bird calling and hear its mate responding nearby, very cool. Over the next hour or so we watched birds coming out of the bushes along the coast to stand in the open for a little while, calling frequently, and every now and then another bird come in through the waves and come ashore. Some of us even watched and filmed some very stationary penguins that just didn’t move a lot…until it was realised these were wooden decoys used to attract the birds ashore! Dear oh dear!

With our scopes set up, there were quite a few other people that were interested in having a look, and at one stage one of the scopes was lowered close to the ground so three kids could have a look at one of the penguins through it. But, with more excellent views of yellow-eyed penguins under our belts it was time to head to the accomodation and then to dinner. Another excellent day.

Day total – Seen = 51; new for the trip = 0; total for the trip to date = 159

A sub-adult NZ (Hooker's) sea lion lazes about on the beach.

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